Weekend Briefing No. 435
Weekend Briefing - A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society
Weekend Briefing No. 435
Welcome to the weekend.
Thanks to everyone who joined us at the Web3 Impact Summit in Austin. What a great event! If you didn’t make it to this one, we’ll do some more in the future if you want to stay in the loop. Make sure you’re subscribed to the Web3 Impact newsletter.
Every summer, I put together a pop playlist and a country playlist. Check out the pop playlist here. Stay tuned for country next week.
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1.3 million—Between May 2020 and May 2022, the leisure and hospitality sector shrunk by 1.3 million workers.
15—These are the top 15 small towns to visit this year.
8—Abby Lampe is the first American woman to win the Cheese Rolling Competition in Gloucestershire, England—an annual race down a 200-yard hill chasing after an 8-pound round of cheese.
This article is one of the clearest philosophical arguments for what’s wrong with Web2 and what might be possible in Web3. Currently, we are a community of people failing the marshmallow test, always optimizing for less friction, more dopamine and shorter feedback cycles. We claim to want richer experiences, to support independent actors, to despise centralization, and to demand more meaningful connections and higher quality content. But then we unlock our phones and are awash in a world overflowing with social activity, a world where every institution is dragged around by the currents of a new wildly unpredictable environment. Our children dream of growing up to be Instagram influencers. Our pop charts are a direct output of the most popular backing tracks on Tiktok. A Facebook-inspired political cult attacked the U.S. Capitol. Even the social platforms are buffeted by the storms unleashed by their technology. Their efforts to assert control have little effect, other than making their position even more essential and central. So, it is in the context of this flooded world that the notion of Web3 as a successor paradigm has such alluring appeal. DarkStar (11 minutes)
In many areas of our lives, things that are not as satisfying now tend to be more satisfying and leave us better off later. If living a good life in ancient times of scarcity was about seeking fast-reward, lower-effort goods, then living a good life in modern times of abundance is about seeking slow-reward, higher-effort goods. Scientists call this the evolutionary mismatch—when strategies that were once adaptive to a species become harmful. Once you become aware of the evolutionary mismatch, you start to see it everywhere. Overcoming it is key to being grounded in an increasingly frantic and frenetic world. The big question, of course, is what can we do about it? How can we live a good, healthy, and wholesome life amid so much junk and candy? Outside (10 minutes)
Ray Dalio’s Warning
“Cash is king.” We’ve all heard this line before. But according to multi-billionaire Ray Dalio, your cash is actually trash. Dalio recently told CNBC: “Cash is not a safe investment because it will be taxed by inflation.” And to make matters worse, he said the equity markets are even “trashier.” So what’s his solution? “Real return assets.” It turns out that art is at the top. Case in point: Members of an easy-to-use art investment platform with ZERO art investing experience have gotten 30%+ net returns in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, but still that’s quite impressive. And by art, I don’t mean nonfungible tokens (NFTs). I’m talking about paintings by legends like Picasso, Warhol or Monet. You know, works that cost 10 times more than Hamptons mansions. Plus, Weekend Briefing readers get priority access with this special link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
As nine members of its ethics board resigned, Axon, the company that developed the Taser, announced on Sunday that it was pausing plans to develop a stun-gun-equipped drone that it said could be used to prevent mass shootings. After the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, last month, Rick Smith, the founder and chief executive of Axon, announced a proposal for a nonlethal Taser drone that schools and other venues could use to prevent mass shootings. The drones, Mr. Smith said, could “play the same role that sprinklers and other fire suppression tools do for firefighters: preventing a catastrophic event, or at least mitigating its worst effects.” New York Tiimes (7 minutes)
Questions for Entrepreneurs
As an entrepreneur, you own your success or failure. Asking these questions monthly makes you more likely to succeed. (1) If you had to stop doing 10% of what you’re doing, what would you abandon? (2) What would you do if you had to launch/finish a given project in 10 days? (3) What work did you enjoy the most recently? (4) What would it look like if it were easy? See more thought-provoking questions in this short article. For The Interested (5 minutes)
What today we’d characterize as extreme poverty was until a few centuries ago the condition of almost every human on Earth. In 1820, some 94% of humans lived on less than $2 a day. Over the next two centuries, extreme poverty fell dramatically. In 2018, the World Bank estimated that 8.6% of people lived on less than $1.90 a day. And the gains were not solely economic. Before 1800, average life spans didn’t exceed 40 years anywhere in the world. Today, the average human life expectancy is more like 73. Deaths in childhood have plunged, and adult heights have surged as malnutrition decreased. The big question is what drove this transformation. Historians, economists and anthropologists have proposed a long list of explanations for why human life suddenly changed starting in 18th-century England, from geographic effects to forms of government to intellectual property rules to fluctuations in average wages. This article attempts to answer that question. Vox (13 minutes)
Bill Gates’ list of recommended summer reads: (1) The Power by Naomi Alderman. It cleverly uses a single idea—what if all the women in the world suddenly gained the power to produce deadly electric shocks from their bodies?—to explore gender roles and gender equality. (2) Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein. In this insightful book, Klein argues persuasively that the cause of this split is identity—the human instinct to let our group identities guide our decision making. (3) The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. Set in 1954, it’s about two brothers who are trying to drive from Nebraska to California to find their mother; their trip is thrown way off course by a volatile teenager from the older brother’s past. (4) The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. Set in a near future where we take no action on climate change, this novel asks the question, “Can humanity survive?” (5) How the World Really Works by Vaclav Smil. If you want a brief but thorough education in numeric thinking about many of the fundamental forces that shape human life, this is the book to read. It’s a tour de force. GatesNotes (4 minutes)
The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. In this intriguing business novel, which illustrates state-of-the-art economic theory, Alex Rogo is a UniCo plant manager whose factory and marriage are failing. To revitalize the plant, he follows piecemeal advice from an elusive former college professor who teaches that reduction in the efficiency of some plant operations may make the entire operation more productive. Alex's attempts to find the path to profitability and to engage his employees in the struggle involve the listener. Thankfully, the authors' economic models, including a game with matchsticks and bowls, are easy to understand. Although some characters are as anonymous as the goods manufactured in the factory, others ring true. In addition, the tender story of Alex and his wife's separation and reconciliation makes a touching contrast to the rest of the book. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the state of the American economy. Buy Now
Most Read Last Week
Food Myths Busted—We’re being bombarded with conflicting advice on what we should and shouldn’t put into our bodies. Finally, here are the definitive answers, according to the experts.
Broke Capitalism—This is y conversation with David Gelles about how Jack Welch’s laser focus on maximizing shareholder value by any means necessary—including layoffs, outsourcing, offshoring, acquisitions and buybacks—became the new playbook in American business.
The Last of Lehman Brothers—This short documentary is about a small team who has spent years working to eke out value from property assets the bank held when it went under.
Funding Fridays is a briefing about the data and trends in startup funding. I send it out on the first Friday of each month. If you’re interested, click here to subscribe to Funding Fridays.
Web3 Impact is a briefing I co-write with Banks Benitez about how Web3 is making the world a better place. We send it out on the third Thursday of each month. If you’re interested, click here to subscribe to Web3 Impact.
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My rule is to break one sweat a day. –Matthew McConaughey
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